“Drag is not just a TV show. It’s a revolution.” Hell yes!
The last time I chose to watch a musical released by Amazon I endured the laughable and eye roll-inducing Cinderella (2021). By the way, check out my review for that movie, here. But Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2021) is not only based on a real, critically-acclaimed musical, but also has the benefit of being helmed by a director with an actual thorough background in how to put together entertaining musicals! Those facts certainly raised my level of optimism! As if that weren’t enough, the movie also happens to be about a gay British teenager discovering his love of drag. Based on that premise even if this movie ended up being terrible I still probably would have ended up loving it!
Based on the musical of the same name, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie tells the story of Jamie New, a gay 16-year-old living in Sheffield, England. Bold and outspoken with a dream of performing, when Jamie’s mother gifts him a pair of red high heels for his birthday, Jamie is inspired to pursue a career as a drag queen. Jamie even decides to attend prom in drag, decisions that soon set his small town abuzz with conversation.
This movie could not have had someone who was more willing to fall head over (high) heels in love with it than me. As I said, the premise was one that I was destined to love no matter what, but then I was pleasantly surprised by ending up greatly and genuinely enjoying this sweet and stylish movie. Not only did Everybody’s Talking About Jamie have me laughing in the first two minutes with the declaration that “this story really happened…then we added the singing and dancing,” but the skilled direction and production of the opening musical number put the biggest smile on my face.
Though it’s his directorial debut, director Jonathan Butterell has worked extensively in musical theatre which is evident because everything about the musical numbers in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie brings to mind the wonder and showmanship of actual theatre. It feels like instead of cheapening the musical numbers by making them flashy for no reason (as so many movie adaptations of musicals often do), the creative team honours how fun and magical a stage production can be and translates that feeling of elation into each of the numbers in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. That’s such a pleasure to see in a movie musical because let’s face it, the musical numbers are the bread and butter of any musical. I was really impressed by the creative artistic choices made in regards to the choreography and production design. Honestly, there are times when Everybody’s Talking About Jamie reminds me of the best parts of Glee (2009 – 2015). You know, the early seasons when it was a ton of fun.
Max Harwood, who plays Jamie, may be a newcomer to the movies, but he plays the lead role with as much talent and charisma as someone who’s been doing it for years. I’m down to see Harwood in more movies, but I think he would actually thrive more on Broadway. I could see him in any number of stage roles! His voice has a specific theatricality to it that would make him perfect for so many different musicals. Harwood brings such an authentic sincerity to Jamie and throughout the movie I just wanted to simultaneously protect him from the bullies (I was ready to start swinging!) as well as be his biggest supporter and best friend. That’s the beauty of Harwood’s performance.
Harwood has a great chemistry with everyone in the cast, but none greater than Richard E. Grant who plays veteran drag queen, Loco Chanelle. Grant is doing the most and is utterly fabulous and I loved every second he was onscreen. Great really takes to the role with as much gusto as Chiwetel Ejiofor in Kinky Boots (2005) or Nathan Lane in The Birdcage (1996). He’s not nearly as fabulous as Lane mind you (because who is?) but Grant embodies someone who’s been doing drag for a long time and sells the fantasy. You can tell how much fun he’s having in a role that he was born to play. By the way, check out my reviews for those movies, here and here.
Like a lot of British movies, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is so cute and quaint and creates a world you’d love to spend time in and an eclectic cast of characters that you’d love to spend time with. This is the type of movie that when you’re at the 45 minute mark you’re like. “oh thank goodness there’s still an hour and 10 minutes left!” I could have kept watching this movie for QUITE some time. I bobbed my head, I laughed, I went, “awwwww!’ This is a fun movie that I would recommend to any fan of musicals, drag, or both. Finally, let me just say this: From the second I first saw those heels it was very obvious to me that Jamie was going to perform in drag wearing them. Mama, those are 100 per cent drag queen shoes. Maybe I’m just desensitized because I spend a good portion of my life obsessing over drag queens.
Have you seen Everybody’s Talking About Jamie?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!